Trying to separate out nature and nurture as explanations for behaviour, as in classic genetic studies of twins and families, is now said to be both impossible and unproductive. In practice the nature-nurture model persists as a way of framing discussion on the causes of behaviour in genetic research papers, as well as in the media and lay debate. Social and environmental theories of crime have been dominant in criminology and in public policy while biological theories have been seen as outdated and discredited. Recently, research into genetic variations associated with aggressive and antisocial behaviour has received more attention in the media. This paper explores ideas on the role of nature and nurture in violent and antisocial behaviour through interviews and open-ended questionnaires among lay publics. There was general agreement that everybody’s behaviour is influenced to varying degrees by both genetic and environmental factors but deterministic accounts of causation, except in exceptional circumstances, were rejected. Only an emphasis on nature was seen as dangerous in its consequences, for society and for individuals themselves. Whereas academic researchers approach the debate from
their disciplinary perspectives which may or may not engage with practical and
policy issues, the key issue for the public was what sort of explanations of behaviour will lead to the best outcomes for all concerned.
© 2013 Levitt; licensee Springer.
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